WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to doze during U.S. President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on January 27, 2010 in Washington, DC. Pictured from the high court are: (L-R, Front) Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer (L-R, Back) Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Since taking office a little over a year ago, Obama's approval ratings have dropped significantly according to recent polls. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is out this morning with its opinion that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. You'll see and read plenty of news and analysis (including here at Prop Zero) about what this ruling means, about the impact on gay couples, about the legal strategies of same-sex marriage supporters and opponents going forward.
But none of this much matters.
There's only one Californian whose views on Prop 8 really matter. And he hasn't ruled yet.
That Californian? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Kennedy, who has been on the court since 1988, is a Sacramento native, the son of a politically connected attorney, who grew up around the Capitol. He graduated from Sacramento's McClatchy High before going on to Stanford. He practiced law in San Francisco and Sacramento, doing work for Gov. Reagan. He infamously drafted a convoluted tax and spending limit proposal, known as Prop 1, which Reagan himself said he couldn't understand. It was turned down by voters.
These days, Kennedy is the swing vote on an ideologically polarized Supreme Court. As such, he's seen as the justice whose vote may well determine the outcome when today's case -- or other challenges to restrictions on same-sex marriage -- reach the high court.
The legal and political arguments we're hearing now are designed in large part with Kennedy in mind, which is why much of what is said and written today matters only in how it influences the Supreme Court appeal, and Kennedy's ultimate decision.
ADDITION (at 1:44 pm): Your blogger has now read the entire 2-1 decision, including the majority opinion and the dissent. Much of the discussion focuses on a U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned a 1996 Colorado ballot measure known as Measure 2. Measure 2 challenged gay rights by saying that gays and lesbians did not have the protection of anti-discrimination bills. Both the judges in the majority and the judge who dissented said that that decision, Romer v. Evans, validated that argument.
The author of Romer v. Evans? Anthony Kennedy, of course.
Related Document: Court Ruling